More than 500 concerned citizens waited outdoors in the snow and cold at the Marcus Patterson Community Center in Southwest Detroit on Thursday, Jan. 28, to voice strong opposition to a Marathon Oil refinery’s request to increase the level of chemical emissions from the plant. A company spokesperson said the controversial 22 ton increase in sulfur dioxide chemicals in the two-mile radius around the refinery was an estimate and that emissions might be as low as 10 tons in sulfur dioxide dumping in the community.
An angry Mayor Duggan addressed the capacity crowd, which included state officials, environmental experts and boxing legend Tommy Hearnes, saying that the issue came down to whether or not the Michigan Department of Environmental Qualtiy would step up and protect people of color and reject Marathon Oil’s request when it votes later today. ” I am gong to convert Marathon-speak into what I believe is happening,” said Duggan as he introduced slides about Detroit’s air quality. “Marathon and the EPA have been partnering since 2011 to reduce emissions, but that’s like saying Bernie Maidoff and the Justice Department partnered to reduce security fraud.”
An animated Duggan said that Marathon’s emissions reduction was driven by a consent agreement with the Justice Department after a 15-year long battle to get the company to reduce emissions in the area. “Now they want to look like great corporate citizens since the emissions reduction, and say ‘hey guys we reduced it even thought the federal government made us do it, not let’s add 22 more tons here … where people already have the worst air in the majority of the state.”
Environmental experts expressed dire concern over the effect increased chemical emissions would have on children and asthma sufferers.
Mayor Duggan said if the MDEQ approved Marathon’s request he will fight the decision in court.